JoJo Rabbit ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
Johannes “JoJo” Betzler is a winsome, ten-year-old boy living with his unconventional mother in Nazi Germany during World War II. His father is fighting in Italy, unseen for two years and presumed dead. JoJo has an “imaginary” companion, who turns out to be none other than the Fuehrer himself, Adolf Hitler. Caught up in the fervor of his time and place, JoJo believes he is a loyal Nazi, until he starts seeing things in a different way.
The Hitler of JoJo’s imagination is funny and endearing, or at least that’s the way JoJo sees him. He has a funny accent and a comical mustache and he’s fun to be with and to talk to, a really nice fellow. Sometimes when he’s talking he lapses into his “fiery speech” mode. JoJo has some growing up to do before he sees Hitler for what he really is and becomes disenchanted with him.
Jews are the enemy, according to Germans of the era, the cause of all the world’s woes. JoJo is more than willing to go along with the hatred of Jews until he discovers that his own mother is hiding one of them in her house, a teen girl named Elsa. JoJo and Elsa becomes friends. After JoJo becomes friends with a Jew, he comes to see the race in an entirely different light. (“What will you do when the war is over and you no longer have to hide?” JoJo asks Elsa. “Dance,” she says.) JoJo wants Elsa to tell him all about the Jews because all he knows about them is the stereotypes. He plans on writing a book that will be the definitive book on how Jews are different from Aryans. JoJo is intelligent beyond his years.
The war isn’t going well for Germany. Allied forces are closing in. The Russians are on Germany’s doorstep. Realistic Germans see the war is lost. The time for believing in miracles is past. When JoJo’s mother pays the ultimate sacrifice for hiding a Jew in her house, JoJo finds himself all alone in the world. Suddenly the war has ended. What do JoJo and Elsa do now? Isn’t it time to dance?
New Zealand actor Taika Waititi plays Hitler in JoJo Rabbit. (I saw Taika Waititi in a little-seen, crazy, funny and dark movie from New Zealand about vampires called What We Do in the Dark.) Taika Waititi also wrote the screenplay for JoJo Rabbit from a novel by Christine Leunens. Taika Waititi also directed JoJo Rabbit. (Give the multi-talented Taika Waititi an Oscar.) A child actor named Roman Griffin Davis is perfect as JoJo Rabbit (so-named because he refuses to strangle a rabbit early in the movie). He’s cute without being cloyingly cutesie-pie. Archie Yates is another child actor who plays JoJo Rabbit’s pudgy, well-meaning friend, Yorki. There’s something reassuring and endearing about Yorki. He’s the perfect friend to be with if you’re stuck in a war.
Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp